It can be difficult to find the right words to say or know exactly what to do after someone has passed away. Providing comfort to those who have recently experienced loss through a kind word or gesture is often welcomed. 

Sympathy Through Gestures

Many people choose to celebrate a loved one’s life through kind gestures. Flowers and plants are a common expression of sympathy and caring. Consider sending a symbolic plant or one that will last year-round indoors that will serve as a welcome tribute to the person who has passed away. Personalized or hand-written condolence cards with the plant or flowers can symbolize your affection for the person who has passed. 

Other gestures may include a donation to a charity. Donating to charity in honor of a friend or family member who has passed away can bring a sense of peace and purpose to their loved ones. Acknowledging what was important to them still matters and continues to be important to those who knew and loved them.

Sympathy Through Action

It’s tough to know what to say or what to do, but no matter how you express your sympathy, be sincere, listen and stay in contact. Be a caring presence in their life to offer encouragement and a shoulder to cry on, and let them know they are not alone.

  • Offer to do yard work, such as lawn mowing or snow removal.
  • Buy groceries. Check the refrigerator or pantry, and then buy a few staples, especially if they have company from out of town.
  • Assist with daily tasks (i.e., laundry, wash dishes, vacuum).
  • Offer transportation or hospitality if they have out of town guests for the services.
  • Sit with them and assist them in reconciling bills, utilities, financial papers, etc. This is especially true if the person that has passed away was not part of the same household and there is no one remaining in the household to manage those tasks.
  • Provide meals.
  • Take them to run errands, especially if they are elderly or uncomfortable driving.
  • Get them outside. Getting fresh air, exercising and stepping away from the busyness is important and may be cathartic.

Funeral Etiquette Tips

We’ve put together a short guide to help you pay your respects with courtesy.

Q: What to Wear
A: If you can, verify the dress code for the service. If you are unable to verify the dress code, it is best to dress in a conservative manner that shows respect for the family and other mourners. For men, this generally includes dress pants, a button down shirt, and tie. For women, this generally includes a dress, skirt or dress pants, and blouse. 

Q: Cultures & Customs
A: Every community and culture has customs that make each service unique and special. It is often helpful to ask beforehand about any special considerations. We can answer many of your questions and can point you towards resources that offer more information. 

Q:  What to Say
A: It can be difficult to know what or when to say something to someone after the passing of a loved one. Kind words about the loved one who has passed are always appropriate, and a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you” can be meaningful and comforting for the bereaved. Express your sympathy in your own words, however it feels right to you. 

Q: Paying Respect
A:If the service you are attending has an open casket, it is customary to show your respect by viewing the deceased and, if you wish, spending a few moments in silent prayer. The family may escort you to the casket, or you might approach on your own. It is important to note that this is not mandatory and that you should always do what makes you comfortable. 

Q: Signing the Register
A: Signing the register book gives the family comfort and allows you to share a memory of the individual or a meaningful note. Be sure to add yourself to the register book, using your full name so that the family can identify you in the future. It is also helpful to add information about how you knew the deceased – through work, social clubs, school, etc.

Q: Flowers & Gifts
A: Sending flowers, making a donation, or giving a memorial gift are all meaningful gestures to let the bereaved know that they are in your thoughts. Some families will state if they have a preferred place to make donations or if they would like to receive donations in lieu of flowers. 

Q: Turn Off Your Phone
A: Take a moment to ensure your phone is turned off, on silent, or set to vibrate before entering a service. 

Cemetery Etiquette

Q: Follow the Rules
A: Most cemeteries have a sign posted near the entrance listing rules specific to the property.These rules will include any floral regulations they might have set as well as their hours. It is important to observe and follow the cemetery rules and regulations. 

Q: Respect the Grave
A: Be respectful of any monuments or headstones. Never remove anything from a gravestone, such as flowers, coins, or tributes that have been left. Do not touch any monuments or headstones. This can be both disrespectful and damaging to the memorial. 

Q: Be Respectful of Services & Other Mourners
A: If there is a service occurring that you are not in attendance of, ensure that you give the procession plenty of space. 

Q: Speak Softly & Politely
A: Be respectful to other mourners. Remember to keep your voice down when having conversations. 

Q: Children at the Service
A: Children, like adults, are mourning. When children are attending funerals, it is important to observe the rules of the facility; use inside voices and no running, jumping, or climbing. 

Q: Don’t Leave Trash Behind
A: Use designated receptacles if they are provided, otherwise, hang onto your trash and take it  with you when you leave.